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European court rules on religious freedom cases

By on Tuesday, 15 January 2013

British Airways employee Nadia Eweida celebrates winning her case in London (Photo: PA)

British Airways employee Nadia Eweida celebrates winning her case in London (Photo: PA)

The European Court of Human Rights has today given its judgment in the cases of four Britons who alleged they suffered discrimination as a result of their Christian faith.

Only one of the four was successful in their claims.

Nadia Eweida, a worker for British Airways, and Shirley Chaplin, an NHS nurse, both complained when their employers ordered them to cover up crosses worn around their necks.

Ms Eweida was initially told by BA that crosses were prohibited as they undermined the professional presentation of staff – despite hijabs, turbans and skull caps being acceptable. BA subsequently changed their policy, and today she has won her case for discrimination.

Ms Chaplin, along with Lillian Ladele and Gary McFarlane, lost their appeals before a panel of seven judges.

Ms Ladele was a marriage registrar for Islington Borough Council who asked not to perform same-sex civil partnerships when these were introduced. She requested to do other work instead, but was told this was against the council’s equality and diversity policy. Mr McFarlane, a relationship counsellor for Relate, did not want to participate in sex therapy with homosexual couples. Both cited Christian teaching in defence of their objections.

All four are Christians who claim that their actions are aspects of their faith which are protected under Article 9 of the European Convention on Human Rights. This defends the right to “manifest religion or belief, in worship, teaching, practice and observance”, subject to proportionate limitations, “prescribed by law and necessary in a democratic society for the protection of the rights and freedoms of others”.

The three who lost their appeals are believed to be considering a final appeal to the Grand Chamber of the European Court, where their cases could be heard before seventeen judges.

John Duddington, editor of the Christian Law Review, said: “I expected this. The decision of the UK courts that a Christian could be prevented from wearing a cross at work was plainly wrong and thank goodness that the European Court of Human Rights has seen sense here. However, the courts have a very poor record of upholding the rights of Christians when other rights are involved, such as those of homosexuals, and so the other decisions, although very disappointing, come as no surprise.

“All is not lost. however. The UK Government is looking at the whole area of human rights and now is the time for Christians – and those of other faiths – to make a strong case for the reasonable accommodation of religious beliefs to be protected in law.”

  • http://profile.yahoo.com/KSAARIUG6RZZR6PAT3PQUVJ2DI Nick

    In respect of the other two cases, I fundamentally disagree with you – the judgments were correct and these two cases were the most cut and dried.The religious rights of the registrar and the therapist are not compromised – one simply cannot discriminate in the course of ones employment duties as doing so denies others the service to which they are legally entitled.In an equal society there shouldn’t be ‘exceptions’ and ‘special cases’, which is exactly what the two Christians were requesting….. Everyone should be treated equally… Religion and Christianity aren’t special ‘special cases’….The two Christians haven’t been discriminated against as they are free to practice their religion – what they are not free to do is impose the consequences of it on others.If they had been allowed to ‘opt out’ of providing the service in question and thus treated as ‘special cases’, what happens if others wish to opt out and suddendly the service provider cannot find sufficient numbers of people to perform the legally required service!

  • http://profile.yahoo.com/KSAARIUG6RZZR6PAT3PQUVJ2DI Nick

    But presumably you support the unequal treatment of gay people in potentially not being able to access the services to which they are legally entiled had these cases been upheld?
    So its ok for Christians to discriminate?

  • http://profile.yahoo.com/KSAARIUG6RZZR6PAT3PQUVJ2DI Nick

    It is also the “right” of gay people not to be discriminated against in the provision of goods and services.

  • http://profile.yahoo.com/KSAARIUG6RZZR6PAT3PQUVJ2DI Nick

    Christians are not in any way being persecuted – the ECHR has made clear their freedom to manifest and express their faith – but not if in doing so they are denying others their legal rights to access goods and services to which they are entitled….
    Its really very simple.

  • http://profile.yahoo.com/KSAARIUG6RZZR6PAT3PQUVJ2DI Nick

    On the other hand of course more and more Christians and society in general support the human rights of gay people to equal treatment – so I’m uncertain as to who you think will be doing the backlashing!

  • http://profile.yahoo.com/KSAARIUG6RZZR6PAT3PQUVJ2DI Nick

    Excellent reply….

  • http://profile.yahoo.com/KSAARIUG6RZZR6PAT3PQUVJ2DI Nick

    So how do you think homosexual acts between two homosexuals in a loving, monogamous relationship should be treated then?

  • http://profile.yahoo.com/KSAARIUG6RZZR6PAT3PQUVJ2DI Nick

    Sorry, but no one and no thing should be given preferential treatment.
    There is no proof what so ever that any god exists, but there is 100% proof positive that Gay people exist….
    Thus beween the two, if we are advocating  ‘preferential treatment’, it seems fairly obvious who should be getting it….
    The sooner we move to a true secular society – like France, considered by many the most civilised country on the planet – the better for all…

  • http://profile.yahoo.com/KSAARIUG6RZZR6PAT3PQUVJ2DI Nick

    Why shouldn’t anyone contribute to a catholic blog to refute some of the ignorant bigotry that gets posted?!

  • TreenonPoet

     I am an agnostic atheist. That says something about my beliefs regarding the existence of deities, but the corollaries do not extend very far. I suppose you could say that I do not believe ‘nothingness’ (in its everyday sense) exists, but that is because I am not aware of any way that infinite fields can be completely shielded. I tried googling ‘random theory’; none of the top finds were relevant. Perhaps you can define it or provide a link, but I suspect that it would be a waste of time…

    Agnostic atheism is the stance that results in the application of rationality, but that does not mean that all agnostic atheists are rational. Agnostic atheism is not a faith position because evidence of the definite, or even highly probable, existence of a deity would cause the stance to change. You group Dawkins, Hawkins, Hitchens, and myself together as if we are all supposed to believe the same things. I realise that Catholics also have their individuality, but why call yourself a Catholic if you disagree with the official version of Catholicism? I usually support secularists and humanists, but I do not regard myself as being either because the definitions do not exactly fit me. I would recommend that you do the same with Catholicism.

  • http://profile.yahoo.com/KSAARIUG6RZZR6PAT3PQUVJ2DI Nick

    “We are living in the middle of a vile revolution against nature” – Err no, we are actually celebrating nature in acknowledging that being gay is as natural as being straight.
    The revolution is against vile Christian prejudice and bigotry.
    Next stop – a secular state – just like in France – the most civilised country in the world – where every marriage is a civil marriage and a religious one carries no legal significance what so ever….. We’ve still got quite a way to go.

  • JabbaPapa

    You mean your own ?

    Consider yourself refuted, then.

  • Sweetjae

    Agnostic atheism is by definition self-contradictory.

  • TreenonPoet

     There are a number of definitions of ‘agnostic’ and ‘atheist’. You very unhelpfully do not supply your versions. I have selected the appropriate definitions from Wiktionary so that you can check for yourself:-

    agnostic
    2. Doubtful or uncertain about the existence or demonstrability of God or other deity.

    atheist
    2. (broadly) A person who rejects belief that any deities exist (whether or not that person believes that deities do not exist).

    I deliberately used the ‘agnostic’ adjective to ensure that you did not assume I was a gnostic atheist. If there are any gnostic atheists, they are few, yet theists often conveniently ignore this, as you seem to be doing. Where there are a variety of meanings, the applicable meaning can often be judged from context. Why select the meanings that would make ‘agnostic atheist’ contradictory?

  • Sweetjae

    So an agnostic atheist (AA) is the one who don’t believe in God yet doesn’t claim for certain like the gnostic atheist (GA) do. If there is an evidence to prove that there is indeed God then an AA would reconsider his position but until then an AA believes there is no God.

    Fair enough.

    To have evidence you need to put God under your microscope, then study “IT” by scientific methods then form a conclusion based on the observable and tested data, if you could that, then I’ll be in your ranks.

    To us the evidences are right here in the physical and tangible realities you see, smell, hear, taste and touch. The chemical compounds of all physical matter and mass assembled to form the realities including the human body, anatomy and physiology and the tangible forms you are exposed and observe CAN NOT just caused themselves to exist from nothing, just those mere facts are very obviously point that there is God.

    Another evidence of God is the composition of so called LIFE. What is it made of? Can it be scientifically be tested as physical and chemical matrix? What is the purpose? Does it exist from the beginning of the Universe? So if certain chemical compounds group together in such a way, do they produce Life into existence?

    To deny these evidences is totally illogical and require a giant leap of faith. Therefore the position of any 2-groups of Atheism is clearly not tenable.

    Hopefully you can google and read the article titled, “Dr. Peter Kreeft on Arguments for God’s existence”. The combox doesn’t allow me to post a hyper-link. Thanks.

  • JabbaPapa

    Why is this individual allowed to post such accusations, whereas someone pointing out that Nick’s own opinions seem to be characterised by ignorance and bigotry is moderated ?

    Is this the Catholic Herald, or is it the feel-good happy-clappy Herald ?

  • JabbaPapa

    Err no, we are actually celebrating nature in acknowledging that being gay is as natural as being straight

    No it isn’t — the principle causes of homosexuality would appear to be genetic mutations or intra-uterine accidents in development, creating non-viable sexual stimuli in individuals in later life.

    They are non-viable in that they directly interfere with the reproduction of the species, and that they are therefore negative traits in the perspective of the theory of evolution, because they will directly tend towards the non-continuation of the individuals’ genetic inheritance within the species.

    To describe these as being “as natural” as the basic male/female biology of sexed reproduction in the vast majority of species on this planet is a falsehood.

  • Gildaswiseman

    Nonsense! I said secular atheism and all the anti-life anti- family that attack Christ’s Mystical Body is evil.not the person blogging. Maybe this person considers themselves as one of the secular atheists that attack the Church and its teaching and so presumes I meant her/him. Who knows!
    I wish you would study the posting more carefully.

  • Gildaswiseman

    Bigotry? What shallow nonsense.

  • Gildaswiseman

    Oh dear!  Well I am not in the least embarrassed, let me explain why. I have stated that St. Thomas did not deny the Dogma of the  immaculate Conception. I could argue that of course he did not, because there was no dogma of the Immaculate Conception for him to deny. John Duns Scotus paved the way for this dogma and it was not binding until the 19th century. However,St Thomas, when contemplating the purity of Mary in conjunction with the messianic mission of Christ, attempted to unify both positions.
    Also, it is well to understand that conception and the infusion of the soul was also a problematic for St Augustine and other great theologians including St. Thomas.
     St Thomas considered that Our Blessed Mother was sanctified after conception but before birth.at one stage of his study; this was in fact the second stage, not an actual denial of her purity or sinless state. really. It most important to understand that St Thomas, who enjoys a unique place in the Church as a theologian; enshrined in canon law. developed the Mariology that enabled the Church to fully understand Mary’s unique place in the economy of salvation. It is good to note that before his death he clarified the purity and sinless state of Mary from both original and venial sin. This we now call the Immaculate Conception.
    Read this text that the great Garrigou-Lagrange gives to support his thesis:
    “In the first period, which was from 1253 to 1254, he affirmed the privilege, for he wrote: “Such was the purity of the Blessed Virgin Mary, who was exempt from both original and actual sin.” [Com. in I Sent, d. 44, q. 1, a. 3, ad 3]In the second period, St. Thomas explicitly denies the Immaculate Conception: “The Blessed Virgin did indeed contract original sin.” [Summa theologiae IIIa, q. 27, a. 2, ad 2]In the third period, “For she [the Blessed Virgin] was most pure because she incurred the stain neither of original sin nor of mortal sin nor of venial sin.”[Expositio super salutatione angelica].Now maybe you think Garrigou-Lagrange should be embarrassed too. The comprehensive study of St. Thomas and this statement you sent me has been a source of theological debate  for so many years and tomes of great books have been written upon the subject.( I will give you a list if you like). Some will say yes he did and some will say it is not as clear cut as that.In the study of theology things are not always so clear; hence theological misunderstandings and disagreements between eminent and often saintly theologians. I could easily demonstrate the other issues you mention  but I do not think you are truly interested in understanding the fallible and infallible nature of the Council or when it is binding on all Catholics to accept the teaching of a Pope and when it is permissible to question. As for the Magisterium it must conform to all the teaching of the perennial Magisterium. If there appears to be contradiction or ambiguity then it is permissible to question in order to ascertain the truth that the Church demands. This is also the Church’s teaching. Please do not presume to attack my orthodoxy as a Roman Catholic based upon your ideas as to what in fact constitutes a faithful Catholic. My only wish in life is for the transparent and orthodox teaching and practice of the faith, as it was before the Council. Maybe you will say it is here already but my experience of the “crisis in the Church” does not agree..

  • TreenonPoet

    In reply to Sweetjae‘s post beginning ”So an agnostic…”:-

    Since you say you are a mathematician, I shall describe a cartoon I saw recently. It showed two bodies of troops charging towards each other. The war cry from the left was “2+2=3″. The war cry from the right was “2+2=5″. (I should add that the context in which the cartoon was presented gave no reason to think that the notation was not what is commonly understood; the cartoon was a representation of the futility of religious wars.) Theologians on the right might argue that whenever two pairs of sticks are brought together, the dissappearance of the fifth stick is evidence for the existence of God. There is, of course, a simpler explanation, and that simpler explanation is so useful, and the theologian’s explanation so useless, that it would seem barmy to follow the latter were it not that the theologians had privileged control of infant education, blasphemy laws to suppress dissent, sympathetic media, etc. The theologian who says that sticks CAN NOT just dissappear is not only being close-minded; his conclusion that God did it is missing a second premise. How did ‘God’ appear in the conclusion? Why did he not conclude that Zeus did it? (This reminds me of another cartoon in which a Christian, a Moslem, and a Jew are queuing outside the gates of Heaven, while at the desk of judgement sits Zeus.)

    If there are a number of possible explanations for a particular phenomenon, the phenomenon itself is not evidence for any one of those explanations being more likely. Posing questions such as “What is the purpose of this phenomenon?” or “Who created this phenomenon?” not only do not constitute evidence, but conceal assumptions (there must be a being with a purpose, or there must be a creator).

  • TreenonPoet

    Please see my unnested reply.

  • JabbaPapa

    Gibberish.

  • JabbaPapa

    Although there was no “dogma” of the Immaculate Conception, there was such a doctrine — though it was still under debate, and had not received the charism of infallibility at that time.

    In the second period, St. Thomas appears to explicitly denies the
    Immaculate Conception: “The Blessed Virgin did indeed contract original
    sin.” [Summa theologiae IIIa, q. 27, a. 2, ad 2]In the third period,
    “For she [the Blessed Virgin] was most pure because she incurred the
    stain neither of original sin nor of mortal sin nor of venial
    sin.”[Expositio super salutatione angelica]

    This is confusing to many people :-)

    The doctrine, to be very precise, states almost exactly what is written there by Aquinas :

    The Virgin Mary *was* subjected in her birth to Original Sin (that no mortal is free of) BUT she did not incur the stain of that Original Sin.

    That is to say that she was preserved free from the consequences of Original Sin, which is also part of the reason why she was entirely free from any particular mortal or venial sin.

    This is a special particular Grace that she received in her pregnancy with the Godhead itself in the person of Jesus Christ, her Son.

    It is a very complex question, and it is informed as much by the theology and the doctrine as by the particular Marian mysticism of both the Western and Eastern Churches.

    You are of course quite right to point out Sweetjae’s error in claiming that Aquinas was wrong in his discussion of this question, given that the detailed Marian theology is pretty much exactly in agreement with the Saint’s writings.

  • JabbaPapa

    As an ex-agnostic, I agree.

    Some atheists confusedly think that agnosticism is essentially a variant of atheism.

    To be fair, many Christians make exactly the same mistake.

    His phrase “gnostic atheist” appears to be meaningless.

  • Gildaswiseman

    Although there was no “dogma” of the Immaculate Conception, there was such a doctrine — though it was still under debate, and had not received the charism of infallibility at that time.
    I absolutely agree with you on this. And yes, Thomas’ Mariology does not offend the Church’s teaching on the subject.

  • Inquisator

    Like the historical embarrassment of our Church declaring heretical the sound, rational and scientific discovery that the earth circled the sun etc 

  • TreenonPoet

     Exactly. Now you tell me why followers of gibberish, such as 2+2=5ism, should be entitled to privileges over those militant 2+2=4ists. (I would remind you that in none of the four ECHR cases have the majority of judges found discrimination on the basis of religion. Such discrimination is already outlawed, so there is no need for another law to outlaw it. That is not good enough for Christian Concern who want more “accomodation” of the Christian faith.) Should accountants be obliged to employ 2+2=5ists?

  • Charles Martel

     I am absolutely sympathetic to people of homosexual tendencies, and I support every effort to give them the treatment they need to overcome such tendencies. This does not mean they have some kind of special ‘rights’ to promote the sodomitic ‘lifestyle’ as a normal valid choice.

  • JabbaPapa

    Gibberish, I find myself forced to repeat.

    Of the complete strawman variety, I can clarify.

  • TreenonPoet

     Well, you could start with homosexuality-is-a-choice-ism. The scientific consensus is that people are born with a particular sexual orientation, and scientists can explain why they are so sure of this conclusion. Why should employers be expected to accommodate opposition to this consensus?

  • JabbaPapa

    Gibberish > more gibberish > non sequitur.

    Sorry, I’ve lost track of your “argument”.

    I would assume that employers are not typically behavioural neurologists, contrary to your odd expectations that they should be.

  • Polly

    Give gays an inch… they take a yard, a foot and a mile!

  • Polly

    You, as always, talk through your ass!

  • Polly

    Give it a REST, will you?

  • Polly

    Bigotry? Get real!

  • Polly

    Thank God and All That Is Holy that this is not The-clown-mass-hippy-happy-clappy Tablet!

    The Catholic Herald ROCKS!!

  • Polly

    Oh, *squeak!* – is that the sound of a barrel being scraped?

  • Polly

    Random.

  • Polly

    Agnostic Atheist? Hedging your bets, are you?

  • Sweetjae

    The crux is not about there was no Dogma yet at the time, the point is St. Thomas made and written thus refuse the concept of Immaculate Conception. Your argument is a fallacy of anachronism.

  • Sweetjae

    No I’m not in error, I’m just saying that in ONE POINT in his time, St. Thomas made and refuse the doctrine of Immaculate Conception, set your facts straight Jabba.

  • Sweetjae

    You haven’t answered my questions as usual and why don’t you also blame the Holy Bible for the abuses of Martin Luther and rise of Protestantism?

    Is the cause of Reformation is due to the Holy Bible or their flawed interpretations?
    Is the cause of splitting ultraTrad sects due to Tradition or their flawed interpretations?

    St. Thomas said EXPLICITLY AND PLAINLY and you still put gibberish nonsense.

  • Sweetjae

    Furthermore historical scholars find that the original Latin Text didn’t contain the words [neither of ] “Original sins” which had been added in the translation during the Middle ages. Honest question, what do you think about this?

    I can paste the original Latin Text of St. Thomas, if you would like?

  • Sweetjae

    So WHO is going to say and define the perennial Magisterium you say you would only obey?YOU?

  • Sweetjae

    The CRUX is St. Thomas MADE AN ERROR in one point in his time regardless of there exist a Dogma or not, DO YOU UNDERSTAND the argument???

  • Sweetjae

    If the doctrine was already infallibly defined during his time, then St. Thomas would NOT make such refusal of the Dogma! You are thinking backwards, my friend.

  • Sweetjae

    ALL Teachings of ALL the Councils are BINDING and must be given assent of whatever level of obedience at the end of the day, that is tge true Catholic orthodoxy,do you understand that? Who told you that a catholic can choose which is binding or not?

    Another thing Contraception and so many more are not infallibly defined, so by your standards Catholics have the option to refuse because they are non-fallibles? Crazy, Protestant thinking.

  • Sweetjae

    Original sin was NOT in the original Latin Text of St. Thomas.

  • TreenonPoet

     Just to remind you about the case of Lillian Ladele: The ECHR judgement explains that Ladele sincerely believes that same-sex civil partnerships are contrary to God’s law. That belief is not consistent with the fact that some people are born to be attracted to the same sex. (Do you think that God would be so cruel as to create beings to be persecuted until death, and then to be tortured for eternity?) It is morally wrong to discriminate against same-sex couples who are not doing anyone else any harm and whose mutual attraction is no fault of their own, and it would be morally wrong to expect employers to support immorality.

    Registars are no more obliged to accomodate homosexuality-is-a-choice-ism than accountants are obliged to accomodate 2+2=5ism. Blatantly false beliefs do not deserve any respect. Ladele deserves respect as a person who may well be trying to do what she thinks is right, but it should not fall to Islington Borough Council to suffer the consequences – it is a problem for society to deal with.

    It seems that John Duddington of the Christian Law Review, and Christian Concern, are having none of this. They would rather that such immoral views be “accommodated”! I call it insanity.